Elisabetta Sirani


(1638 – 1665)Elisabetta Sirani was born into an artistic family in Bologna. Her father, Giovanni Andrea Sirani, ran his own art workshop. His eldest daughter’s (Elisabetta) talent became obvious at an early age. It is reported that Giovanni was reluctant to teach her in the style of the Bolognese School of Painting as he knew she would soon eclipse him. This was indeed the case and Elisabetta became one of the most renowned painters in the city. Unfortunately, Giovanni became ill when Elisabetta was only 16 years old and she was forced to manage her father’s workshop. She also opened a school and trained at least 12 women before her death, running the first school of painting for women outside of a convent in Europe.

An extremely prolific artist, Elisabetta produced over 200 paintings, 15 etchings and hundreds of drawings. She painted at least 13 public altarpieces, including “The Baptism of Christ at the Certosa di Bologna of 1658”. Sirani was the first woman artist to specialize in history painting and painted in an allegorical mode that solicits the observer’s interpretation of the work. She broke the contemporary expectation where the conventional genre for female artists was straight portraiture. Elisabetta died at the age of 27 in suspicious circumstances though it is now believed that the cause of her death was most likely the onset of peritonitis after a ruptured peptic ulcer. Her legacy has survived her early death and her work is now held in major public and many private collections internationally.

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Finding of Moses, ca. 1660

Oil On Canvas, 44.5" x 51.25"